MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — National 911 Telecommunicators Week is celebrated through Friday.
It’s a week set aside to recognize those operators who are the “first” first responders explained MECCA 911 Director Mike Wolfe.
“They’re the ones who start the call and end the call,” he explained. “They have to insure they are getting the right information dealing with a lot of different emotions every single shift that they’re working.”
Monongalia County employs 24 full time dispatchers. According to Wolfe, they have more than 170 years of combined experience.
“That really adds to the community that you have educated, long term retained employees that are basically there to serve you,” Wolfe said.
In the first 6 months on the job, those operators go through 2,000 hours of training. MECCA 911 is a medical emergency dispatch department which means operators must be able to deliver lifesaving instruction like “CPR, child birth, choking, all of those types of instructions for the callers to help preserve life until a first responder can get on scene,” said Wolfe.
Operators in Monongalia County answer an average of 400 calls a day. That increases significantly when WVU hosts games or during special events like Mountain Fest.
Wolfe calls it a job that’s rewarding, but not for everyone.
“This is a high turnover rate position just because every single day, 40 hours a week, you’re not only dealing with your personal life, but you’re dealing with every single caller who calls in here and something traumatic is happening in their lives.”
Operators are required to go through monthly training to keep certifications as a medical emergency dispatch department. As technology evolves and callers rely more on mobile devices, dispatchers are also working to start implementing text to 911 services and video to 911 services.
“You’ll be able to use any type of wireless device that can connect to an Internet and be able to send a message,” Wolfe explained.